Monday, Nov 01, 2004
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After four full-scale tilts at the windmill, and a one-off Test to inaugurate the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 1996-97, since Bill Lawry led his team to victory in India in 1969-70, Australia has finally achieved a famous victory in the toughest cauldron on the world cricket circuit.
It came about because the Australians were better prepared, had more talent and desire, and better understood what it takes to win Test matches wherever they are played. Basically the Australians were more committed to do what it took to secure the victory.
I once saw a definition of commitment described as being the difference between a pig and a hen in providing the ingredients for a bacon and egg breakfast. The hen was involved but the pig was committed. Australia was the pig in this contest and India the hen.
Australia has had a number of heroes but the stand out for me is Glenn McGrath. He missed the series between these two countries during the last Australian summer and was considered to be past his best.
Many of his close mates within the team were heard to wonder out loud whether he would come back to his best and his form in the Champions Trophy did nothing to assuage their doubt. The fact that he has been able to trouble all batsmen whether with the old ball or new is a great credit to his talent and determination to get back to his best. Hundred Tests and 450 wickets is a testimony to his value to Australia over the past decade or so and underlines how much he was missed in the last series.
Jason Gillespie has also enjoyed a great series and it stamps him as one of the best of his time and anyone else's. The planning that went into this tour pushed the fast bowlers to the front of the battalion and relegated Shane Warne to support duties. Warne took his reassignment with the courage that we would expect from a champion and he has enjoyed his most fulfilling series so far in the subcontinent.
A potent combo
As Australia found out in Australia, McGrath and Warne will be missed when they take to the commentary booth or wherever they choose to go when they finally hang up their well-worn boots. They have led this Australian attack so magnificently in recent years as more than 1000 wickets between them will attest. It is hard to identify another combination as potent as these two on the horizon.
India, on the other hand, has a lot of soul-searching to do. The warning signs were there for me when it was reported that Sourav Ganguly had insisted that the groundsman shaved the wicket just prior to the Test match. That signalled an individual and collective state of mind that was not evident when the Indian team stood so firm against Australia in the recent series. Ganguly's mind seemed so much more focussed on the positive then.
It just shows how hard it is to be a champion team. There is more to it than just wishing it so. Australia has been planning for this win for the past decade and has worked towards finding what was needed to achieve it down to what to eat, what to drink and how much of it to have and when. This requires organisation off the field as well as on it. One does not happen without the other.
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